At bedtime, a silence gathers around our marital bed. It is so thick, it almost feels like a swarm of mosquitoes has surrounded the space above our heads. A bit absurd that – silence and a buzzing swarm of mosquitoes, but that is how the silence feels.
The husband is hooked to his iPad. Any attempt at conversation is met with – “Can you please let me read?”
However this doesn’t annoy or offend me.
Sometimes at the end of his reading, he has some questions.
“Is butterbeer a real thing?”
“Shall we do a Harry Potter themed meal?”
“Why are the books named differently in the UK and the US ? Harry Potter and the philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?”
His questions are endearing, and they make my heart smile.
You see, my husband and I have different tastes when it comes to reading, though there are a few books and authors that we have both enjoyed.
When I met my husband, I was so happy that he read. Anything at all. I had given up on the hopes of meeting a Gujarati man who read. (I wasn’t particularly looking for a Gujarati husband, but the men that were ‘introduced’ to me in an arranged setting were all Gujarati. I had dreams of finding someone from the Bengali community because I thought they were very well-read, but that’s an entirely different story in itself.)
I must sound very biased or rather prejudiced when it comes to Gujarati men. These biases stem from the fact that a lot of Gujarati men that I was introduced to did not care for reading, and one even asked me, as his eyes took in the shelves full of books in my bedroom: “Are these all your books?” When I said yes, I remember that he had shaken his head in disbelief and said, “Wow. You must have an opinion on everything.”
Therefore, I was, naturally very pleased when I discovered via our email and gchat correspondences that the man I was chatting to (my future husband) was a reader.
However, like I said, our tastes were different.
When he came to know that I had read and enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and would often borrow them from the library – when we moved to Reading in United Kingdom – to read them again, he would tease me. “These books are meant for children; they aren’t for adults.”
He refused to pick them up.
I let it be.
Then one day, he came home from work, and I was watching a Harry Potter movie. I don’t remember which one.
I left the TV on and went to the kitchen to make ourselves a cup of tea.
It must have been five minutes or so, and he called out to me.
“What is this hissing creature?”
Without looking at the screen, I said, “Nagini.”
After a minute or two, he called out again. “Prerna.”
“Can you switch this off?”
Irritation and anger rose quickly to my face. “You know, just because you don’t like Harry Potter doesn’t mean I can’t watch it.”
“No, it’s not that,” he said; his face all sheepish.
“I am, umm, getting very interested in all this. Can we watch the movies together. But from the beginning?”
I stood there, transfixed, whilst the tea boiled and brewed in the kitchen. Eventually I switched off the TV. It was as if I had witnessed magic – I was certain that someone cast a spell over my husband.
A month or two later we watched all the movies. Then when we were in India during the first wave of Covid-19, we watched the movies again, this time with my husband’s younger sister.
The husband had clearly fallen for the stories, and the characters – liking Dobby, disliking how he was treated by the Malfoy family, getting angry at Snape and later feeling deeply for him, hating the romance between Hermione and Ron (“why do we need romance in everything?”), cheering for Harry and also for Dumbledore…
And this past month, about five years or so after he first stumbled upon Nagini, and the world of Harry Potter, he bought all the books, albeit the Kindle editions.
So when night looms, and silence hovers over our bed, and questions mushroom thereafter, I smile to myself.
Here we are. Both 40 plus. The husband reading Harry Potter; engrossed, interested and hooked in the words and the world it creates. Falling for the books he had dismissed as being for children.
But perhaps we all have a child within us.
P.S. He has looked up butterbeer recipe and is keen to have that, as well as a Harry Potter themed meal. A couple of days ago, he also had me in splits when I asked him where he was, in his reading, and he answered to me in chaste Gujarati (our mother tongue) – “Have e ena cousin ni foi ne fugo banavi ne akaash ma chavgse.” Roughly translated it would mean, ‘I am at the point when Harry would make a balloon out of his cousin’s aunt and cast her away into the clouds.’